Tory leadership: Johnson and Hunt make pitch to be PM

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Media caption,
Jeremy Hunt: "We are democrats who want to deliver Brexit".

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have made their pitch to be the next prime minister at the first of 16 Conservative Party hustings.

The two contenders for Number 10 laid out their vision for the country at a conference in Birmingham.

Mr Johnson said these were "dark days" for his party, but insisted he could turn things around.

But his rival warned members not to elect the "wrong person" and risk "catastrophe".

Mr Johnson said the most important thing was to "get Brexit done".

He said: "My ambition is to unite this country and our society... let's take Britain forward.

"We need to discover a new confidence in our country."

'Slamming and banging'

The former mayor of London featured on most of Saturday's newspaper front pages following reports by the Guardian that police were called to his London home after neighbours reported "slamming and banging" in the early hours of Friday morning.

The Metropolitan Police Service have said they will not be taking any further action following the episode.

Asked by the hustings moderator, LBC presenter Iain Dale, whether character mattered when choosing a prime minister, Mr Johnson said: "I don't think people want to hear about that."

Accused of ducking questions, Mr Johnson said: "People are entitled to ask me what I want to do for the country."

His rival, Mr Hunt, said the UK was in a "very serious situation".

He continued: "Get things wrong and and there will be no Conservative government, and maybe even no Conservative Party.

"Get things right and we can deliver Brexit, unite the party and send [Labour leader Jeremy] Corbyn packing."

But he warned that if Tory party members elected the "wrong person" as leader then "catastrophe awaits".

No-deal preparations

Mr Johnson, meanwhile, said he would prepare for a no-deal Brexit if he became PM.

He said: "We must be able to come out on WTO terms, so that for the first time in these negotiations we carry conviction.

"And it is precisely because we will be preparing between now and 31 October for a no-deal Brexit that we will get the deal we need."

He repeated his previous claim that it was "eminently feasible" for the UK to leave the EU by 31 October, saying he intended to make it happen.

That is the date that the EU's membership extension runs out, and if nothing has changed, the UK leaves without a deal.

Theresa May officially stood down as Tory leader on 7 June and will cease to be prime minister in the week commencing 22 July.

An initial list of 10 candidates to replace her was whittled down to Mr Hunt and Mr Johnson in a vote by Tory MPs.

In the fifth and final round on Thursday, Boris Johnson came out on top with 160 out of the 313 votes cast. Mr Hunt received 77 votes and Michael Gove was knocked out with 75.

One questioner at the hustings wanted to know whether Mr Johnson's approach to British business in the context of Brexit was as "cavalier and careless" as previously, when he used an expletive.

He replied: "I believe passionately in UK businesses, and as foreign secretary I spent a lot of my time promoting UK businesses at home abroad."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Jeremy Hunt insisted he would leave the EU with no deal if necessary

Jeremy Hunt insisted he would leave the EU with no deal if necessary.

He said: "I would do so with a heavy heart. But if we have to in the end I would do that."

Of a mooted renegotiation with Brussels, he said: "If we send the wrong person there's going to be no negotiation, no trust, no deal, and if Parliament stops that, maybe no Brexit.

"Send the right person and there's a deal to be done."

And challenged over the fact he campaigned for Remain in 2016, the would-be premier said: "Look at my record since that referendum.

"I have been very clear on every occasion... I have voted for Brexit."

'Our own Jeremy'

In another jibe at his rival, Mr Hunt warned members not to elect a Conservative "populist" to oppose "hard-left populist" Jeremy Corbyn.

Referring to himself, he said: "Or we could do better and choose our own Jeremy."

He continued: "If Corbyn gets into Downing Street there will never be Brexit.

"That's why it's so important that we hold together our Conservative and DUP family and deliver Brexit."

Mr Hunt said he would increase defence spending and called for Conservatives to have a "social mission", focusing on social care for older people.

He also vowed to get more young people voting Tory.

And he promised: "I will never provoke a general election before we have left the EU."

Members will receive their ballots between 6 and 8 July, with the new leader expected to be announced in the week beginning 22 July.

Compare the candidates' policies

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...and a candidate


Jeremy Hunt
Foreign Secretary

- Wants to leave with a deal, but says he would back a no-deal Brexit with "a heavy heart" if necessary. - Will create a new negotiating team to produce an "alternative exit deal" to Theresa May’s plan, and engage with EU leaders over August. - Will present a provisional no-deal Brexit budget in early September and decide by the end of the month if there is a "realistic chance" of a new deal. - If not, will abandon talks and focus on no deal preparations. - Pledges to cover the cost of tariffs imposed on the exports of the farming and fishing industries in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

Boris Johnson

- Vows to leave the EU by the 31 October deadline "come what may", but claims the chance of a no-deal Brexit is a "million to one". - Wants to negotiate a new deal, which will include replacing the Irish backstop with alternative arrangements. - Will not hand over the £39bn divorce settlement with the EU until the UK gets a new deal. - If a new deal is not agreed, will ask the EU for a "standstill period" to negotiate a free trade deal. - Argues a provision under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, known as GATT 24, could be used for the UK to avoid tariffs for the next 10 years, but admits it would need EU sign off. - Promises to support the rural community in a no-deal Brexit scenario with "price support" and "efficiency payments".


Jeremy Hunt
Foreign Secretary

- Calls for flexibility on immigration, saying skilled workers should be prioritised. - Wants to review policy of stopping migrants with less than £30,000 coming to the UK to work. - Pledges to scrap the target to reduce net migration to below 100,000.

Boris Johnson

- Wants a new Australian-style points-based system, considering factors such as whether an immigrant has a firm job offer and their ability to speak English. - Will get Migration Advisory Committee to examine the plan. - Wants to block the ability for immigrants to claim benefits immediately after the arrive in the UK. - Opposes the net migration target of under 100,000 a year.


Jeremy Hunt
Foreign Secretary

- As an entrepreneur, he wants to turn Britain into "the next Silicon Valley... a hub of innovation". - Wants to cut corporation tax to 12.5%. - Wants to raise the point at which workers start paying National Insurance to at least £12,000 a year. - Pledges to scrap business rates for 90% of high street shops. - Will increase the tax-free annual investment allowance from £1m to £5m.

Boris Johnson

- Pledges to raise the tax threshold for the higher rate to £80,000 (rather than the current £50,000). - Wants to raise the point at which workers start paying income tax. - Will review “unhealthy food taxes” such as sugar tax on soft drinks.


Jeremy Hunt
Foreign Secretary

- Wants to increase defence spending by £15bn over the next five years. - Promises to keep free TV licenses for the over-75s. - Wants to build 1.5 million homes and create a “right to own” scheme for young people. - Backs both HS2 and a third runway at Heathrow.

Boris Johnson

- Pledges more money for public sector workers and wants to increase the National Living Wage. - Will “find the money” to recruit an extra 20,000 police officers by 2022. - Promises to maintain spending 0.7% of GDP on Foreign Aid. - Wants to review the HS2 train project. - Pledges full fibre broadband in every home by 2025.

Health and social care

Jeremy Hunt
Foreign Secretary

- Promises more funding for social care. - Wants to introduce an opt out insurance system to fund future care, similar to the way pensions work. - Wants to target manufacturers of unhealthy foods to make them cut the sugar content. - Mental health support to be offered in every school and a crackdown on social media companies that fail to regulate their content.

Boris Johnson

- Rules out a pay-for-access NHS, saying it would remain "free to everybody at the point of use" under his leadership. - Has previously said money spent on the EU could be put into the NHS. - Plans to give public sector workers a "fair" pay rise, according to supporter Health Secretary Matt Hancock. - Says more should be spent on social care, according to a cross-party "national consensus".


Jeremy Hunt
Foreign Secretary

- Pledges to write off tuition fees for young entrepreneurs who start a new business and employ more than 10 people for five years. - Wants to reduce interest rates on student debt repayments. - Long-term plan to provide more funding for the teaching profession. - Wants to abolish illiteracy.

Boris Johnson

- Wants to raise per-pupil spending in primary and secondary schools, with a minimum of £5,000 for each student in the latter. - Wants to look at lowering the interest rate on student debts.